Dec. 29, 2000
By BRIAN MAHONEY
Oklahoma is seeking its first national title in 15 years. Florida State
seems to go after the championship every year.
The top-ranked Sooners try for their seventh national championship when
face No. 3 Florida State in the Orange Bowl on Wednesday in Miami.
Oklahoma (12-0) won the last of its six national championships in 1985.
Sooners played for another one following the 1987 season, but haven’t been a
part of college football’s title chase since.
Florida State, on the other hand, seemingly plays for the national
an annual basis. The Seminoles (11-1) are in the Bowl Championship Series
game for the third straight season and are playing for the national
championship for the fourth time in five years.
After losing to Tennessee in the 1999 Fiesta Bowl, the Seminoles beat
Virginia Tech last year to win the Sugar Bowl. A victory makes them the
team to repeat as national champion since Nebraska in 1994-95.
“The goal was always to get back to the title game,” Heisman Trophy
Chris Weinke said. “And here we are.”
While Florida State entered this season as a favorite to defend its
it wasn’t until the middle of the season that Oklahoma was given serious
consideration as a national championship contender.
The Sooners moved to the top of the polls at the end of October after
impressive three-game stretch that saw them beat Texas, Kansas State and
Nebraska. Oklahoma has been less than impressive lately, however.
Three of the Sooners’ final four victories were by five points or less.
may be why oddsmakers have made Florida State the favorite, though Oklahoma
“They have great athletes, but we didn’t get here just through being
smart,” receiver Josh Norman said. “We’ve got talent on this team. We’ve got
great players on this team. We’ve made plays all year and we’re not planning
not making plays in this game.”
Of course, it is easy to see why Florida State would be considered the
favorite. Led by Weinke, the Seminoles have an awesome offense that averaged
NCAA-best 549 yards this season and scored 42.2 points per game.
But Oklahoma’s defense has often been at its best against top
Both Texas and Nebraska, schools known for potent offenses, could
just 14 points against the Sooners. They held Nebraska scoreless for final
three quarters and didn’t let Texas cross midfield until its last possession
the first half.
Also, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops is familiar with Florida State’s
faced the Seminoles four times while he was defensive coordinator at
and the Gators went 2-2 and limited the Seminoles to 24 points per game.
Stoops never had to deal with Weinke, though. The senior threw for a
school-record 4,167 yards, with 33 touchdowns and 11 interceptions this
Things became a little easier for Oklahoma when Florida State receiver
Marvin Minnis became academically ineligible for the game. Minnis was
favorite target, catching 63 passes for 1,340 yards and 11 touchdowns.
“Can we replace 11 touchdown catches? I don’t know,” coach Bobby Bowden
said. “There could be a dropoff there, unless somebody decides he wants to
play as good as he did.”
The Seminoles will still have offensive coordinator Mark Richt, who
coach his final game for Florida State. Richt has taken the head coaching
Oklahoma counters with its own strong offense. The Sooners average 39
per game to rank seventh in the nation, and are also in the top 20 in total
offense and passing yards per game.
Much of that success is due to Josh Heupel, the runner-up to Weinke in
close Heisman vote. Heupel led the nation in completion percentage at 64.6
percent while throwing for 3,392 yards and 20 touchdowns.
The winner of this game will automatically finish No. 1 in the coaches’
poll. Florida State could be forced to share the title if No. 2 Miami beats
Florida in the Sugar Bowl and is voted No. 1 in The Associated Press media
Oklahoma has won three of the four meetings with Florida State. The
met in consecutive Orange Bowls in 1980 and ’81, with Sooners quarterback
Watts – now a member of Congress – earning MVP honors after leading Oklahoma
Florida State is 17-9-2 in bowl games, and Bowden has compiled a 16-4-1
record at the school. Oklahoma is 20-12-2 in bowls, including 11-5 in the
“We have a great history with the Orange Bowl,” Stoops said. “And I
that excellent history continues.”